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Deadly Freedom: A Conversation with Andy Marsh of Thy Art Is Murder

Celebrating and spotlighting the culminating success that is "Godlike".

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Words by Luis (@HeaviestOfArt):

Self-contained and brimming with creative vigor, Australia's Thy Art Is Murder are a special breed among the flooded deathcore ranks, one that has now reached the height of self-releasing a staggering full-length on their own means. Their new album, Godlike, was released worldwide earlier this year 100% independently via their own label, Human Warfare. It's a feat emblematic of a band commited to their craft, pleasing creative ambitions first and foremost and letting the success be a byproduct of their passion. We're a long ways from The Adversary (2010) and with anthems as grand as the ones included within Godlike (see Keres), there's no question as to why the band was able to sell-out and stupify venues like The Roundhouse in London. Though the album cycle may have suffered a tad from comments made by ex-vocalist CJ McMahon, Thy Art Is Murder enlisted Tyler Miller (Aversions Crown) on vocals swiftly and effectively, which got them right back on track towards a massive album release. With the course corrected, the celebrations proceeded and Godlike has gone on to live anew on stages across the world.

Back in early August, we sat down with an excited Thy Art Is Murder as the band was readying the arrival of the defining statement that is Godlike. It's time we visit that conversation. Read through the extensive interview with Andy Marsh to learn about the band's creative intentions, the driving force behind Godlike, working with the acclaimed Billelis, and more:


At this point in a discography, most bands find a sonic formula to stick by whereas others see the foundation as something to expand upon. Thy Art Is Murder operates with the latter, making "Godlike" a true a compositional high mark for the band. Do you feel as though this is what you've been working towards all these years? This release is on your own label now.

Andy: I'm still not sure, you know? It's kind of more about the principle and the journey than the destination, but I feel that we've gotten closer to how I imagined the band's music becoming. It was nice to have such a long break away these last few years from having to make a record on a typical release cycle timeline without having time off. It was nice to live our life and find new inspiration and ideas by just being away from playing our own music for such a long time. Obviously, we play our own songs on stage hundreds of times a year, so to have two years without that really helped us break free in a sense. I thank that helped us make some changes.

It's good to step away and re-evaluate, especially when you're so entrenched in the work being done. With how fast release cycles work, I'm sure it can get hectic. Would you say then that it was critical to have this said "break" to accomplish this fully realized vision you had for the record?

It was, at least a part of it. I don't like to ever say that one thing alone changes everything because life is so complex. I hate to lean too far into one thing, but I think it was an essential part of the process for sure with how everything kind of came together. We had a lot of time away from touring and and that gave us the time to put together the label and the infrastructure to try and get this to be a worldwide release.

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Photograph by Jake Owens

It also gave us the time to think about what some of our more mid to long term goals were. Sometimes when you're in the thick of an album cycle, it doesn't give you a lot of time to sit back and think about how you want to go about things in 5 or 10 or 15 years, you know? We write the album, record the album, get the album release ready, get the touring ready, rest a tiny bit and the cycle continues. That's pretty much the recipe for how we do things. Do we still think that we can be doing this in 15 or 20 years? I guess we got to answer those questions for ourselves.

The genre would benefit from that extended stay! It must be freeing to now operate under your own terms. Though you've worked with flexible labels that value your interests, the dynamics of self releasing a record are definitely unique.

It gives us that extra little bit of flexibility in terms of product timelines and the quality of the product we want to offer. We're not a massive band that's going to sell 50,000 vinyl records. We're going to sell records to fans of ours that love collecting and we're able to spend more money making a good quality product whereas with a label, you're kind of siloed in and don't have as much control over the finances. A lot of corners get cut and sometimes cheap product goes out, which isn't exactly representative of what we would like to give to our fans.

But overall, who could complain about being with Nuclear Blast? They're one of the greatest, the biggest independent record label in the world of any genre, which is phenomenal to think about in metal. There's a lot of great people there that have taught me a lot over the last 10 years.

Definitely, and I mean you're still working hand in hand with them for the Decade Of Hate (Live in Melbourne 2023) release. It's a perfect perfect segue into a following point, which is your intentional approach to putting together quality audiovisuals, specifically vinyl records and of course music videos. You have a hot streak going in that regard and with "Godlike", you develop a comprehensive package with much waiting to unfold. How significant would you say that this element is to the band?

In terms of finances, that remains to be seen, but for us, you can't quantify the significance. Not everything that you can measure matters and not everything that matters can be measured. We have never been a band that has really put ourselves forward in the visual domain. I subscribe to what you might say is an old fashioned saying of, "They don't walk away from the concert singing the music video., they walk away singing the songs." We've always prioritized the songs and spend more time in the studio than putting that money towards developing a better live show or producing music videos.

With the way social media drives so much activity nowadays in terms of marketing and promotion, we figured, "What if we do invest in the music videos?" We've already spent more money on the first two music videos than we've spent on all music videos in our entire career combined. I can't measure what difference that will make. I can see the views for instance, but who's to say how that influences whether or not people decide to pick up a copy of a record or a t-shirt? What do I know if they were on the fence about buying a ticket to the tour and now they bought one? I can't see that, but over time, people will be able to see that we value what we do.

You may not be able to quantify it, but there's no doubting that it leaves a priceless impact on the experience of the listener or viewer. That extends to the album cover and overall imagery and branding, which was done by Billelis this time around. In transitioning from Eliran Kantor for the previous two album cycles to Billelis, what were you envisioning upon approaching this element for the album?

I have been a fan of Billelis for quite some time now. I'm a big fan of the John Wick franchise and I saw what he was doing for the John Wick III campaign, which I really loved.

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Poster Design by Billelis

He works on these super modern, 3D modeling, and 3d rendered projects. It's all digital and basically a sculpture that you can move around on the computer. We were trying to find out how to do that with the album cover and perhaps have some visual effects with different kinds of panels that move when you move the album artwork. Basically, we wanted a 3D album cover.

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"Godlike" Artwork by Billelis

I knew that coming off such a long break in between records and having this sort of internal feeling of rebirth or evolution, we felt like we had to have a fresh approach. The album artwork needed to be a fresh representation as well, which is the only reason why we decided to change album cover artists. I thought Billelis was unique in terms of bringing to life an album title like "Godlike", which insinuates this sort of eternal or immortal idea. His use of modern techniques to paint something ancient was a way of bridging the time between the past and the future. I think he really delivered despite us just speaking about a few concepts. I don't like to give artists too much direction. I believe that you should find the artists that you like and let them do their thing. We went to him for what he does and let him get to work.

That's the perfect way to go about it. You talked about the refresh, a fresh start of sorts, where the band doesn't conform to what is comfortable. Is that the driving force, creatively speaking? One can arguably say "Godlike" is Thy Art at the height of your performing abilities.

Yeah, and I think it has to do so much with the time off. We've always had "curveball" ideas throughout each record, but sometimes you're too much in the zone of what they are that you begin to question, "Is this what Thy Art Is Murder supposed to sound like?

There's so many psychological influences that come into it as well, like the trust of your bandmates or how much they trust you if you put forward a little idea that's a bit strange. There's also the openness to new ideas, confidence. Will they like it? Will they hate it? We were so much out of the groove of touring and and getting that feedback loop from the live show that I think it just released a little bit of tension or pressure about what it should sound like. We just had to kind of go for it, if that makes sense.

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"Godlike" Artwork by Billelis

We also listened to a lot of music, a lot of metal bands during COVID, and thought, "Wow, that's a little bit different." If they can get away with it, surely we can get away with putting in some of the weird stuff that we're into.

It's freeing to operate that way, operating under your own terms to craft something truly boundless.

For sure. Sometimes with a label, they get to release albums when they want to and that might not be as synergistic with the touring or with merchandise plans or music video plans. We just had ultimate flexibility. I mean we could still change the release date if we wanted to, which we did. Some labels would advise against it and say "No, that's unacceptable." For this album, we could adjust the course as needed, like put a single out next week if we wanted to, you know? Let's put out a music video next week if we want to. Having that flexibility to make sure that the recorded music side of what we do works hand in hand with the touring aspect is pretty nice. We're pretty small and nimble because it's just the band and we can do whatever we want, which is not saying that we do need to adjust course, but if we did, it's nice to know that we have that freedom.

Absolutely, but I will say it's also scary to be that free at times. Sometimes direction is needed to keep you on track. When it came to putting all your thoughts and ideas down on paper, was there a sense of cathartic realization that you had, especially upon seeing the final product? There's something to take from that moment where you're finally sitting back and seeing what you invested yourselves in.

We knew as we were getting closer to finishing the album that it felt very different, fresh, and exciting for us. Everyone's really excited about the record. It's one of those things that's hard to predict or predetermine because when you go into writing a record, you have ideas of what you want it to sound like but you can't nail it down specifically since it's such a vague idea. I may want it to have certain sonic characteristics or have these stylistic choices, but when you start writing the songs, the songs, in your subconscious, tell you where to take it. You don't have total control. It's a bit of a misconception that people think that you can decide how a song is going to be and then write exactly that song. You might start with a riff and it inspires you or your bandmate, and then they take it to a different place, and then that inspires you, and the cycle continues. You take it to another place and all of a sudden it's somewhere totally different and you love it, but it may be a little bit different from how you originally imagined it.

With this one, we just kind of let it go. We only had a few broad strokes or ideas amongst ourselves that we wanted to have on this, like an element of more stompy choruses and groovy verses, for instance. That's it. We didn't pigeonhole ourselves or anything. Normally in the verses, we've got a lot of blast beats and crazy riffs. We figured, what if we change the dynamic? We ended up with 25 to 30 songs and recorded 10 to 15 that made it on the record.

What you're saying is that "Godlike" is the most realized version of Thy Art Is Murder that you can get (at the moment). In closing, and I guess in an act of reflection, was this at all where you imagined you'd be as a musician when it all began with "The Adversary"? It's of course a byproduct of having fun in the process and doing whatever pleases you first and foremost creatively. The rest works itself out and you've put out chart topping albums, earned awards, played big shows, and more.

At the risk of sounding a little bit conceited or arrogant, I believed in myself, my bandmates, and our team, which includes our producer Will Putney. I believed that we would continue to make great things, great to us at least, which is first and foremost. We have to be proud of it whether or not it's trendy or we're popping on Tik Tok or whatever. I knew that we had the potential among us to make great music and for the last 15 years, we had to focus on that. Like you said, everything else is just a byproduct of the passion that we share to make this band the best that it can be.

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Thy Art Is Murder "Godlike" Lettering by Billelis

We knew that we would persist at perfecting what we do and I think as long as you can do that to a reasonable level, then the other things will kind of come along with it. Our shows are still attended by passionate fans and we enjoy ourselves. That's the best thing that we can hope for in terms of any kind of creative reception.


Godlike is available now via Human Warfare (Order).

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Cover Artwork by Billelis


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